Jun 192020
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

While The Isley Brothers are commonly filed under Soul or R&B, that categorization only partially reflects what they have delivered soundwise since the release of their first album way back in 1959. We all know how this works: basically, whatever genre your biggest hits fall into will then by default define who you are to the world forevermore. And because their most popular songs are of the soul shouter-disco/funk-quiet storm variety, they have been conveniently stuffed into the singular genre of Soul/R&B. But in the case of the Isleys, this cut-and-dried categorization is exceptionally misleading. Which is to say, while their ’60s hits “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You) and “Shout Pts. & 2” remain their highest ranking tracks in terms of Spotify plays, they are hardly reflective of the true, signature Isley sound, a perfect melding of topical Rock & Soul that remains unmatched to this day. Make no mistake (and with all due respect to their former Motown label mates, The Temptations and The Four Tops), The Isley Brothers were a proper band. Like The Beatles or The Stones. A classic old school, turn the amp up to 11, self-contained, smokin’, genre-defying band.

This is just a roundabout way of saying  if you want to know what the Isleys are really about sonically and philosophically, it’s best to avoid the greatest hits playlists and head straight for the string of positively seminal studio albums the band released from 1971-1976. There were 6 in total over that time, beginning with Givin’ It Back and running on through to 1976’s Harvest For The World. It is there you will meet O’Kelly, Rudolph, Ronald, Ernie, Marvin and Chris Jasper, the real Isley Brothers.
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May 122020
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s big day with cover tributes to his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Steve Winwood turns 72 today, so we have quite a few candles to light. The multi-instrumentalist singer and songwriter has had so many different incarnations that surveying his career makes you dizzy. It’s not just that Winwood tried his hand at different genres, it’s that he helped define those genres. These things can happen when a gifted artist jumps in on the action early —Winwood was famous for his music by the age of 16—and then keeps evolving in ways that matter. Add to that some serious staying power, and you have an impressive career–one that is still going strong six decades in.

In fact, last year may have been Winwood’s best ever, in a funny way. DJ-producer Kygo remixed Whitney Houston’s cover of Winwood’s “Higher Love,” and released it digitally; the song now has about 350,000,000 hits on Spotify alone. More about that song later, but for now just imagine that a small number of Kygo’s followers are asking themselves, “Who wrote this?” What will they find, and like, once they go down the Winwood rabbit hole?
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Apr 302020
 

Check out the best covers of past months here.

best cover songs april 2020
Arlo Parks – Redondo Beach (Patti Smith cover)


I’ve wanted to do a “Full Albums” on Patti Smith’s Horses for years. But it, and she, gets covered less than you’d think. This beautiful piano “Redondo Beach” gets me one step closer. Though, admittedly, I already had Courtney Barnett’s recent cover for that slot. Someone cover “Break It Up” already! Continue reading »

Mar 252020
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

aretha franklin cover songs

August 16 has long been a day of infamy in the history of American popular music. It started in 1977 when Elvis Presley, the King of Rock n’ Roll, passed away. Forty-one years later, another member of rock royalty also died: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. Though she was older and her death less of a shock to the cultural landscape, I still remember the exact moment when I heard the news. I was with my family driving home from Sesame Place in Pennsylvania listening to the Beatles channel on SiriusXM. The DJ interrupted to tell us the sad news and in Franklin’s honor played her version of “Let It Be.” Continue reading »

Jun 142019
 
 crosby stills nash covers

Before Woodstock made them legends. Before the drugs took control. Before the rivalries, the breakups and the reunions. Before the memoirs, the biographies, the documentaries, and yet another breakup. Heck, before Neil Young joined the party. Before all that, there was simply Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Fifty years ago, in May 1969, the supergroup comprised of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash released their self-titled debut album. It catapulted the three singers, all of whom had enjoyed success in other bands, into superstardom. As band biographer Peter Doggett put it, “They cut a debut album that caught the mood of the times.” In retrospect, the record could have been called Greatest Hits: Volume 1. The album contains numerous classics, including “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Helplessly Hoping,” “Marrakesh Express,” “Wooden Ships” and “Long Time Gone.”

Surprisingly, given this record and CSN’s place in rock history, the songs haven’t been covered that much. Secondhandsongs.com lists only 77 known covers of all the tracks on the album. By comparison, there are 208 covers of the tracks from Déjà Vu (that includes 86 versions of “Woodstock,” which was written by Joni Mitchell). Stills’ solo track “Love the One You’re With” has inspired 69 covers. These numbers do not provide a complete picture, as the site usually does not include music on YouTube or SoundCloud. But they give you an idea of just how few artists have decided to tackle these songs.

Still, we found some great covers by such luminaries as Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Richie Havens, and Trey Anastasio. There are also countless home recordings by guys and gals with acoustic guitars and one of best harmonizing bar bands you’ve never heard of. Let’s “set a course and go”…

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May 312018
 
best cover songs may

The usual disclaimer: Our monthly “Best Cover Songs” aren’t ranked, and the “Honorable Mentions” aren’t necessarily worse than the others.

Update: Hear me discuss this list, along with our Best Pink Floyd Covers ranking, on SiriusXM Volume:
https://soundcloud.com/siriusxmentertainment/ray-padgett-of-covermesongscom-favorite-covers-in-may-covers-of-pink-floyd

Angus and Julia Stone – Passionfruit (Drake cover)


Three prominent indie artists covered Drake’s “Passionfruit” this month: Franz Ferdinand, Cornelius, and, the best of the bunch, Angus and Julia Stone. Covering a rap song is easier, I suppose, when there’s no actual rapping. Few political or racial minefields in the lyrics for artists to navigate help too (for a counterexample: this month’s worst cover). For Triple J’s great series “Like a Version,” Angus and Julia Stone brought their beautiful harmonies to a smooth soul bed. It floats like Gram and Emmylou singing a Marvin Gaye song. Continue reading »